'Courting success - PC Retail

'Courting success

PCR sits down with Meroncourt sales director Steve Walsh
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What was the motivation behind your recent rebranding and what are you looking to achieve from it?
We thought a refresh of our image was long overdue and it's a good way for existing customers to see we are progressing and active in the market. We're hoping that it will attract new business, but also give our existing customers confidence that Meroncourt, as a company, is here to stay.

Before the end of June, we will also launch our brand new website. It has been designed to be much more interactive and more user friendly.

What can your customers expect from your new website?
We're hoping that by the end of July it will be fully functional and that our customers can benefit from the changes we have made in terms of navigation and layout. It's been a long time coming, so we're excited to be so close to the launch.

How strong is the gaming peripherals business at the moment?
It's good for us and continues to show steady growth. We have plenty of new products coming out over the next few months and we're sure that the Roccat Gaming headsets and keyboards demonstrated at this year's Channel Expo will experience huge demand.

What's your best performing product/category in terms of sales?
On the PC side, it's high-end gaming peripherals such as mice, keyboards and mats. We are doing extremely well on multimedia, with products like headsets and speaker systems performing well.

Entry-level mice are still showing strong returns, as are everyday items like sound cards and power products, such as laptop battery chargers as well as the batteries themselves.

Has the recession impacted sales of high-end gaming accessories?
Not really, the market is still very healthy and due to our continual release of new products, sales continue to climb. The recession has affected our standard PC range more as people look to price point more than quality. That's really a shortterm response, as when they see the stock.

Why are high-end peripherals so attractive to the market?
I think the attraction is how great they look and perform these days. Often, they are stuffed so full of technology that for many of us it is difficult to use all of the functions available. But then when you go to a large LAN event, for example, and see the gear being used by the professionals, you begin to understand why they achieve such high demand. Their enthusiasm for new technology is just addictive.

What would you say your current share of the gaming market is?

It's difficult to say – it's probably around the 15 per cent mark. What is certain is that we're growing all the time, especially as we bring new brands and new products to the market. Apart from PC, we have a very large console gaming range, which is also performing well.

You recently ramped up your drop shipping service. What has the reception been to that?
Drop shipping is not that new to us, we have actually been carrying it out for a small number of customers for 18 months. However, this year we have rolled it out as a concept for everyone to use. It has been well received and is an area that is growing all of the time.

It's not a service that will make us any profit, but it does help our customers to manage their stock and cash flow better. So it builds loyalty and also shows we are a distributor who thinks more about the whole relationship we have with our customer rather than just working on an order-by-order, deal-by-deal basis.

Have you managed to gain new customers from its launch?
Yes we have definitely taken on some new customers, though it's difficult to say 100 per cent if it's just because of the drop shipping. I think it's more because of our whole package.

Since our return from Channel Expo we have had an increasing number of new enquiries based around all the initiatives we have to offer. We have more ideas ready to come out over the next few months, which we anticipate will also make us an even more interesting partner than many other distributors.

I firmly believe you have a duty to your customers to help them as much as possible; we have to think how we can make their lives easier and more profitable by using Meroncourt.

Meroncourt recently began Twittering. How important is it for you to look at new ways of reaching audiences?

Twitter is becoming increasingly important as is our blog site glopipe. They are great ways to give information to people in a straightforward and non-technical way.

We think any form of communication can be of benefit to not only to us and our customers but also for end-users. People seem really interested in news, never mind all the product information and long specifications; just give them some brief updates and they are more than happy.

Are there any areas that Meroncourt is looking at expanding into in the next 12 months?
Our expansion plans for the next twelve months will be to bring on maybe just two or three new vendors, to expand our current ranges from existing manufacturers and also to increase the levels of business we carry out on our fulfilment and storage side.

You say that you're looking at bringing in two or three new vendors. Are they in your traditional gaming market, or are they along the lines of your diversification with netbook accessories?
We will bring on vendors who can offer new products or new ideas so long as the quality of their products and support is also there. Put simply, without that we don't consider them.

We're expecting to sign another gaming brand within weeks and also another brand new to the UK, which will diversify us further into PC cases and cooling solutions. We are also very far progressed with a vendor for entertainment and lifestyle products, with a portfolio that includes MP3, digital cameras, photo frames and HDD multimedia products.

We are very fortunate in that our manufacturing partner Speedlink has a diverse range already which is expanding all of the time, they also moved into several new areas over the past twelve months, which is an obvious bonus for us as its UK distributor.

Where do you see Meroncourt being in a few years time?
Definitely still a big presence in the market. Still a distributor who cares about its customers and its products. Still proactive in the technology community as a whole.

We have been strengthening our senior management team for the past few years and expect this to continue so we have a really strong and successful company for the future.

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